Wednesday, December 31, 2014

year's end

And here it is: the annual cliche, the annual sunset, the signing off on another year of a daily picture and comment or two.  The clouds look curdled tonight, and are massing on the horizon: supposedly there'll be snow by dawn.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

butternut squash soup

So what does one do on a day when it's freezing cold (around 18F outside); when there's a howling gale, and thin gritty snow blowing sideways for most of the day, and one of you is still sick?  Make soup.  You'll want the vague recipe.  Take a butternut squash, and cut into thick slices, and roast for two and a half hours at 325F, with around 10 garlic cloves, and a chopped onion.  Peel things that need peeling.  Place in blender and whizz up, and then blend with a bowl of farmers' market chicken stock that you perspicaciously have in the freezer.  Add some curry powder, a touch of cinnamon, stir and heat.  I promise you it was good.

Monday, December 29, 2014


If it wasn't for the red and black spotted catnip mouse, it really would be very hard to tell where the rug ends and Moth begins ... This particular juxtaposition reminded me ever so much of cats-on-carpets paintings - that also became greetings cards - by Ditz, my parents' former neighbor.  It was not a little strange, Googling for a suitable image of hers, to come across this - my mother's former cat Sam, in a painting commissioned by my father, I believe, for their golden wedding anniversary (and no, the painting itself is emphatically not for sale, though you can get all kind of repro versions of it ...).  Mothy would make a very good painting, of course ...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

out of season

 Breakfast in the Albuquerque Airport - I mean Sunport - Sheraton, with a thin layer of ice just wrinkling over the swimming pool (isn't one meant to empty these in winter?).  To the right, and out of the picture, some balloons rising in the early morning chilly air, with clear gold sunshine everywhere.  Even if we couldn't wait to be on the road and home, it was so good to be back in New Mexico light.

DFW lights [for Dec 27th]

Some days, there really is nothing to take a photo of.  That is, there is plenty of material if one wanted to take pictures of fellow passengers on airplanes, but that doesn't convey the trying properties of the small girl who kicked the back of my seat all the way from London to Dallas. So this is, if nothing else, just symbolic of exhaustion: we were so tired by the time we hit Albuquerque that all we could do was collapse into the airport Sheraton, Alice still coughing, and both of us - well, not having had the best Christmas on record.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day [for Dec 26th]

My mother, on the left, shows Nancy, my aunt, pictures of Santa Fe that I've sent her on her iPad.  I'm really very proud of her grasp of technology ...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

um, Christmas

[homage to Larry Sultan, really ...].  We'll start off with my father pouring some lunchtime champagne.  On the right, my photo-shy mother bolting, fast, out of the frame.  That red glow?  That's the oven, with Alice's baked potato baking.  She's back in the hotel, sick as a dog.  I'm uncertain why dogs are sick, but it's a customary phrase - if a baffling one.

My father poses, gamely, with champagne.

Each year, a favored few get a calendar, with The Best Of ... the previous year illustrating the months to come.  Here my parents try and guess whatever my pictures could possibly be of.

The calendar-gift was packaged up with a fetching ribbon, that my father then tied into a bow tie.

Ah well - if in doubt, give books.

Happy British Christmas, everyone ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

when granny was a little girl

This is the pond where I used to throw bread for the ducks when a little girl, with Cannizaro House in the background (then a hospital for the long term war-wounded, now the hotel in which we're staying and in which Alice is starting to recuperate from a vile and most unChristmassy lurgy); here is the view from the bottom of the gardens.  Somewhere between the two, I heard a mother telling her daughter - "when mummy was a little girl, she used to ...".  The mother was much much younger than I, and although I'm sure I should be pleased to think of generational continuity, I just felt old, old, old.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


It wasn't quite that bad ... but let's just say that a drop-in NHS clinic wasn't where we (especially Alice, the bronchially sick one) wanted or expected to spend most of our day. Bah, humbug.  But thank goodness it existed - the unhelpful receptionist at my parents' GP said that it would take them two days to process the paperwork so that she could be seen.  On Dec. 23rd, we can all figure out our calendrical math there ...

Monday, December 22, 2014


We are very grateful for the decanter of overly sweet sherry in our Wimbledon hotel bedroom - fortification is welcome.  For me, of course, it tastes horribly like the stuff that Elaine Griffiths, one of my St Anne's tutors, would ladle out in Middle English tutorials: sherry refuses to decouple itself from Gower and Troilus and Criseyde and Langland, in my sensory memory.  Maybe, indeed, sherry was ultimately responsible for my inexplicably bad relationship with Piers Plowman ...

Flint restaurant (for Dec 21st)

Yes, the hotel restaurant in Oklahoma City was called Flint.  And no, alas, they didn't give a discount ... though I could always use this image for next year's Christmas card ...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

national championships

These are quite certainly not the most interesting photographs I took all day - those might be of a (live) reindeer's antlers - but they are what we are in Oklahoma City for: this is the moment Penn State won the women's volleyball national championships ... very glad to have been here for the Final Four; very glad Penn State won, because they are a spectacular team; very glad to be part of our very, very different world for a few days ...

Friday, December 19, 2014

land grab (and more public art)

Just south of where we're staying - and just south of the Chesapeake arena - but before the river - is a canal, linking Bricktown (which tries to look like a resuscitated bit of the city, but really is just full of bars and restaurants for conference attendees and sports people) with the river (that would be the Canadian, or the Oklahoma River).   And by the side of the canal - indeed, crossing the canal - is what is one of the largest freestanding bronze sculptures in the world - some 365 feet long, when it's completed.  It's by Paul Moore, celebrating - "celebrating" - the 1889 Land Run, when President Benjamin Harrison opened up some 2 million acres of "unassigned" Indian territory to settlement.  So settlers rushed in, and grabbed.

Is this really something that should be celebrated?  There is, indeed, one lone Indian, standing at some distance from the spectacle of greed.  Of course, it's quite an impressive piece - here the settlers are charging towards an old grain elevator, which is now a climbing gym.

But I wish that I'd been here to see the alternative (and soon removed) installation in the summer of 2013, when artist Geoffrey Krawczyk scattered some 39 cast-iron skulls - some with simulated blood - over the site.  That seems to be far more faithfully in the spirit of the grey and desolate land.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

public art in oklahoma city

The Oklahoma City bombing memorial - one of the best public memory sites I've ever seen;

and from the other end: these two square arches bookend it;

Indians on the courthouse (earlier victims of violence, of a different kind);

glass in the Art Museum, in a tall sculptural pillar of curly bits;

and some penguins.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

oklahoma city

The view from our hotel window!  An ice rink!  A faint glow on the left is the Chesapeake Arena - home of the women's volleyball national championship - whoooop whoooop!  Yes, this may be an off-beat way of spending some our break - whooop!  (and after a day's snow-and-rain filled travel, we still got into time in time for dinner ...).  Tomorrow - well, we'll be supporting Penn State and Texas in the two semi-finals (we'll draw a discreet veil over USC's fate this year, but it's so much fun to be here and part of the scene ...).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

moth, packing

Moth doesn't just know that we're packing: she knows that there is a catnip Christmas toy (a bright green catnip filled cactus, indeed) for my parents' cat inside it.  She has made her feelings felt - as if we didn't already feel bad enough about leaving ...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas lights

There isn't ever a year, probably, when - despite all my planning (too much of which probably exists inside my head) - I feel as though I haven't left too much seasonal organization to the last minute.  But this year, I did manage to buy a whole lot of solar powered lights that I've strung into our New Mexican trees, and very pretty they look, too.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

the day bookended: dawn and dusk

A wintry dawn - that LA storm caught up with me in NM, and left an inch or two of snow, and a biting cold wind - and then a Biblically golden evening (with neighbors' children playing in the dusk).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I can't breathe - the Santa Fe Farmers' Market version

Today's I Can't Breathe protest in Santa Fe's railyard was more than a little surreal, since it was in hot competition for space with a childrens' Christmas festival - long lines of parents with children waiting to have their photographs taken with Santa; face-painting; a toy train giving rides - and a die-in offered rather more bodies to step over than some of these people had anticipated.  And that's before you get to the regular farmers' market crowd, buying chile pepper wreaths and goats milk soap and anemic looking carrots and green chile pizza and raspberry chile jam and tamales and green chile mustard.

I struck up an ill advised and bad tempered conversation - argument? - with a bad tempered woman who complained that we were Spoiling Christmas.  I suggested that it had already been spoiled for the Garner and Brown and other families.  Well! she said - they shouldn't have been fighting with policemen.  And this here was wrong, in front of children ... So ... is a twelve year old not a child? another woman asked.  And so it went ... it was like finding oneself in the middle of the worst kind of talk radio.  And then everyone stood up again, and drifted off, under the eyes of five cars worth of police men who were doing their best to not seem like policemen, and I headed off to buy my chile products.

the storm rolls out (for 12 Dec)

It was very, very, very wet.  The storm woke me up in the middle of the night, and I was super-aware that the amount of water coming down could mean trouble ... but the garage didn't flood that much, really ... and it meant that I could put Alice's collection of last semester's NYT to good use.  I'm sure she can find on line what's in them that she meant to cut out, really.  Hmmmm, sorry.  But - necessary.  I could hardly see the hill of Griffith Park when it got light, and there were huge pools of water, and a very wet rabbit.

And then the helicopters.  Police helicopters, news helicopters (there's one just under the left-hand bank of cloud, below).  They were pulling two people from the LA river which was in full spate below us (that's water running down our street, in search of a river to run into).  Probably not surprising that I couldn't get to the office to do urgent admin ... then the plane was late ... then I didn't get to Santa Fe until well gone midnight ... and now ... the same storm is rolling in, here ...

Friday, December 12, 2014

the storm rolls in

Far too grainy - but the view from the top of the car park at dusk this evening was pretty spectacular. This is the illuminated ball on top of VKC; these are the clouds borne along by the Pineapple Express - that river of warm air that's come over the Pacific from Hawaii (carrying with it a whole range of connotations of Dole workers, which is probably unintentional).   My latest iPhone app?  A new weather toy called Dark Sky, which is meant to be fabulously accurate in forecasting the weather at the very spot at which one's standing - and which features a globe, with all the precipitation in shades of red and yellow on it.  There's an intense band of fiery, glowing dampness heading in the direction of LA, which will probably wake me up with a loud bang at 3.30 a.m.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

a line of jade

Somehow this doesn't quite look like winter.  But I'm not offering up this back yard view to boast about the climate, but to contemplate that little line of plants along the low wall.  Yesterday the gardeners removed a lot of unrewarding, demanding weeds - at least, we all think they're weeds - and this meant (since some were growing up, determinedly, inside a large jade bush) trimming the jade.  And now they've planted all these little orphan branches all along the wall, which if even half of them grow, should be interesting.  (Oh, and that's the new fence in the background, with a little passageway dug under it, at one point, for the ingress and egress of all kinds of wildlife).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

eroded finger tips

And for today's mystery - I give you - my finger tips. Both hands.  I went to the INS today to have my Metrics taken in order to renew my green card, and it took a very, very long time to process my finger prints, because, apparently, I have very eroded skin on my fingers (and indeed, roll the ends around as best she could, the technician kept getting print-readings on the screen that showed these whorls and lines as ragged blotches, highlighted in red to show their illegibility).

What job did I do, she asked?  Was I a cleaner?  Did I wash a lot of clothes by hand?  Was I - you could see her choosing her words carefully - was I one of those people who washed their hands compulsively?  Somehow being a USC professor didn't quite explain the smoothing off.  I don't think I can have typed the skin away, since I'm somewhat dot-and-carry with my left hand, and even my little finger was affected.  I hypothesized that it might be photographic chemicals, or acid from etching (as though I've done very much etching in the last 25 years ...) which seemed to satisfy her. All the same, I was left feeling as though I might be a criminal who'd labored hard to get rid of my identifying marks.

Monday, December 8, 2014

back in LA! (but earlier today ...)

That was a brief visit - I'm now back in LA (meetings, meetings) but Walter Gomez was left dozing in the sunshine in New Mexico.  We need the sunshine ... to warm up the house (one bulletin from Alice this evening had her perched in front of the oven).  For whatever reason, the heating isn't working - no problem during the day, when the sun (especially given the angle at which it hits at this time of the year) can heat everything (so long as it's shining) - but at night ...  Heating guys come tomorrow.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

back in NM!

We're back!  I mean - I have to get on a plane tomorrow, and go back to LA for meetings, and leave Alice here to write, but we're back!  It's the symbolic end-of-semester burrito and margarita at Harry's time!  It's reminding ourselves that the country really is much more chilly than Los Angeles, and that leaves fall off the trees, time.  It's also reminding ourselves that the sky at night is very, very dark, and that it's very quiet indeed, here.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

la posada christmas trees

In Winslow, AZ, at our favorite hotel, La Posada, with the cats ... these trees are in the corridor outside our room.  Usually we choose the Ed Ruscha room: it was booked this time, and we're in the Tom Ford Room, which we like even more.  I guess the hand at the edge of the picture - which I only saw when I uploaded - belongs to Alice, pointing out the photos of all the stars after whom the rooms are named (many of whom allegedly have stayed here ....).  Our cross country drive was enlivened by listening/watching 2nd round volleyball on ESPN3 on my iPhone: alas, alas for the Defeat of the Women of Troy, which happened somewhere in a reception black hole between Flagstaff and Winslow.

Friday, December 5, 2014

emanating calm

We held our departmental retreat in the Blue Room at the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena: a terrific little building - once a private residence, now a museum - that makes one feel as though one's stepped straight into Japan, say.  The room was, indeed, very blue, and full of artifacts - mostly C20th copies (including what was, by all accounts, a supremely uncomfortable day bed).  I was very grateful for the Buddha presence, which tried to bestow a calming eminence.  I don't know what the label reads, though - it seems very opportune for a caption competition ...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

last class of the semester! (and After The Rain).

Last class!!  You'd think that these two pictures were identical ... but no: the top one I took, and stars, on the left, my super-wonderful TA Robin; the second one has me standing in her place, with her behind the camera.  It seemed only suitable that we should take class photos on the last day.  I'll miss this gang, a lot ...

And it was ever so beautiful this morning, after the rain.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

department holiday party

Everyone looks oddly solemn, under the space-ship like lighting!   But yes, there was festive food, and Adult Beverages, and table decorations, and Christmassy music.  I've just given a speech about Barb - who is retiring in a couple of weeks from her position as Office Manager - and I guess they're waiting to see what's in her large box. Answer - it's an iridescent glazed glass vase, with a snowdrop design (she's a glass person, making it herself with a kiln - so we also gave her a gift certificate for a glass supply company).  It's quite amazing to think that she first set foot on the USC campus in 1952, as a 17 year old.  I really wish that I'd taken a picture of her Christmas Necklace - I'll miss seeing those red and green twinkly lights every year ... the space between December and December is just long enough, annually, for me to forget about them ...

float like a butterfly

... sting like a bee.  Suddenly, out of the rain on Hyperion, appeared this Mohammed Ali tribute.  I don't recollect ever having seen it before, but was very grateful to be stuck in traffic and to have turned my head so that I could see it ...

Monday, December 1, 2014

black cat

Clearly, I've reached that desperate time of the semester where the only things that catch my eye have fur and whiskers.  This handsome young animal belongs to a friend - I was round delivering lunch, since she's torn her meniscus - and (together with his identical brother) was very good between-meetings company.